Brittney Griner's Nine-Year Sentence Upheld

Brittney Griner's Nine-Year Sentence Upheld

Brittney Griner, WNBA star, has had her sentence appeal rejected by a Russian court today.

Griner has been in Russia since her detainment in February after customs officers found vape cartridges containing hash oil. She pled guilty and was eventually sentenced to nine years in prison on drug smuggling and possession charges. The harsh sentence has concerned U.S. officials, who worry about the basketball player's safety in the midst of the ongoing Russia-Ukraine war. The U.S. has been a vocal supporter of Ukraine.

The appeal rejection was to be expected and U.S. officials have faith that Griner will come home soon if they accept a prisoner swap offer. Officials previously reached out to offer Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout in exchange for the WNBA star. Russia has not responded to the offer, instead asking for the return of Vadim Krasikov, who is currently in a German prison on a murder conviction. The U.S. is unable to return Krasikov because he is not in their custody.

"We are aware of the news out of Russia that Brittney Griner will continue to be wrongfully detained under intolerable circumstances after having to undergo another sham judicial proceeding today," U.S. national security adviser Jake Sullivan said in a statement.

The sentence has been criticized as unnecessarily long and excessive. In a statement, Griner's attorneys said, "The verdict contains numerous defects and we hoped that the court of appeal would take them into consideration. We still think the punishment is excessive and contradicts to the existing court practice."

Likewise, the WNBA Players Association released a statement saying that the rejection "is further verification that BG is not just wrongfully detained, she is very clearly a hostage.''

Officials believe that Russia will not engage in any serious discussions until after the midterm elections on November 8, refusing to give Biden a victory.

“Brittney Griner’s appeal rejected, source says. Completely expected result. Attention now turns to whether Russia will engage in negotiations more seriously after US midterms.”

Griner's arrest has sparked intense discussion over the treatment of WNBA athletes, who rely on traveling overseas to make the money their male counterparts can make in the U.S.

Photo courtesy of Keeton Gale/Shutterstock